Reno Piscopo dedicated his stunning goal at the AFC U-23 Championship on Wednesday night to everyone affected by the Australian bushfire crisis.
The Wellington Phoenix attacker scored a remarkable long-range free-kick as Australia’s U-23’s opened their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Iraq.
Having been tripped outside the box, Piscopo thrashed the resulting set-piece into the top right hand corner, leaving Iraq shotstopper Ali Kadhim Hadi with no chance.
It was a goal that meant a lot to the 21-year-old, not just as it helped Graham Arnold’s side secure an important result in their group opener.
But the current bushfire situation back home is also close in the player’s minds, with the entire squad pledging to donate $25 per player per goal that Australia scores throughout the tournament.
The final sum will be donated to Rural Aid at the completion of Australia’s participation at the tournament.
“It felt good. Scoring my first goal in this tournament was important for us and the team to give us an extra boost,” Piscopo told socceroos.com.au.
“This goal I dedicate it to the families back home, the victims, it was special for me.
“It came off clean. I had a previous free-kick in the first half and it just missed so I was pretty confident on the second one.”
While Piscopo’s goal gave Australia a deserved lead just after the hour-mark, Iraq hit back 13 minutes from time through substitute Mohammad Qasem's strike.
Asked what Arnold’s message was after the match, Piscopo said: “He just said to keep our heads up.
“He knows we should have got the three points but it’s still early stages, it’s just the first game so anything can happen. We believe we can go all the way.
“The performance was good. I believe we could have done better and there is always room for improvement.
“But we’re happy with the 1-1, we just focus on the next game and getting three points.”
Australia next take on host-nation Thailand on Sunday morning (AEDT), who won 5-0 over Bahrain in the other match in Group A.
The AFC U-23 Championship sees Australia competing for a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games alongside 15 other Asian nations.
Australia’s Group A games will be streamed on the My Football YouTube Channel and shown on Kayo Sports.
Arnold’s charges will play Thailand in their second match of the tournament on Saturday, 11 January 2020 (local time) at what is expected to be a well-attended fixture at the iconic Rajamangala Stadium, before rounding out their Group A campaign with a game against Bahrain on Tuesday, 14 January 2020 at Thammasat Stadium.
The top three nations at the AFC U-23 Championship Thailand 2020 (excluding Japan) will secure a place as one of Asia’s representatives in the men’s football competition at the forthcoming Tokyo Games.
Australia U-23 v Thailand U-23
Date: Saturday, 11 January 2020
Venue: Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand
Kick-off: 8.15pm (local); 12.15am + 1 (Sunday, 12 January AEDT)
Click here for tickets
Broadcast: MyFootball YouTube Channel, Kayo Sports